Tupelo takeover

by Max Cooper

Tupelo Honey Café announced last week that it’s opening a new location in Chattanooga. The restaurant, which opened on Pritchard Park in 2000, now has six locations in North Carolina and Tennessee.

Elizabeth Sims, Tupelo's director of marketing, says the restaurant has no plans to stop expanding. “We're looking at a lot of options,” she says. “We're trying to be thoughtful about how we grow. With each location, we're learning a lot about what works and what doesn't.”

Businessman Steve Frabitore purchased the restaurant in 2008 from founder Sharon Schott. In 2010, the company commissioned a study of more than 70 markets to determine where to grow the brand. The South Asheville location opened that same year, followed by the Knoxville restaurant in 2012. The Greenville and Chattanooga locations will open this year, Sims says, and a Johnson City café will come online in 2014.

As Tupelo Honey grows, it will focus on creating a unique atmosphere in each new city, even as it continues to serve its classic menu. “We don't want to open in Chattanooga and be known as the Asheville restaurant,” Sims says. “We want to be Chattanooga’s Tupelo Honey.”

That location will seat about 150 people in a 5,500-square-foot, two-story space. It will become part of a development known as Warehouse Row, which encompasses 330,000 square feet of shops, restaurants and offices near the the Tennessee Aquarium and the Chattanooga Choo Choo.

At this point, the brand has been well received throughout the southeast, Sims says, although the restaurant does not plan to expand outside the region. “It’s just gone gangbusters,” she says. “I’ve been shocked, quite honestly, at how popular it is.”


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